ALLAN K. FLEEGER is president of the Product Stewardship Society and product stewardship and regulatory affairs manager at ExxonMobil Chemical Company in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at (832) 625-3782 or

Although the science surrounding worker health and safety stretches back at least as far as Ramazzini in the 17th Century, the profession we now know as industrial hygiene wasn’t formalized until the creation of AIHA and ACGIH in the late 1930s. Before then, many people who trained as chemists, engineers, physicians, and other professions were involved with occupational health and safety even though they didn’t have a professional home.

Until recently, a similar situation existed within product stewardship. The profession wasn’t clearly defined, no single home for PS practitioners existed, and the groups that did exist were concerned primarily with advocacy. The kinds of things necessary for a group of professionals to thrive—educational programs, opportunities to network and share best practices—didn’t exist.
That changed in 2012 when AIHA founded the Product Stewardship Society. The goals of this affiliate organization are to provide resources and professional development opportunities to product stewards worldwide, and to help product stewardship professionals promote responsible design and management of products throughout their life cycle. DEFINING PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP The work of product stewards has much in common with that of industrial hygienists. Both product stewards and industrial hygienists are experts in risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication. Both conduct regulatory surveillance and implementation, and both are involved with hazard communication and safety data sheets. Both are knowledgeable about GHS, toxicology, chemistry, and several other disciplines.

But the need for a separate professional home for product stewards has been clear for some time. Companies face challenges in developing talent in product stewardship: prior to the founding of the Society, companies had difficulty identifying sources of education on topics other than GHS and regulatory issues. Many companies have developed their own education and competencies, but they need a way to benchmark their programs. And developing their own education is typically more expensive than finding a third party to do it for them. Professional associations are equipped to address these challenges. A PROFESSIONAL HOME The Product Stewardship Society is a natural outgrowth of AIHA. About ten percent of AIHA members self-identify as working in stewardship and sustainability, and we have a very active Stewardship and Sustainability Committee. AIHA’s experience with developing and delivering world-class education will be a great help as the Product Stewardship Society begins to address companies’ needs in this area.

The Society is off to a great start. Its accomplishments include distribution of the weekly Full Circle e-newsletter, which aggregates articles of interest to product stewardship professionals; development of a core competency document; and the launch of its own website. The Product Stewardship Society’s success is reflected in its growing presence at AIHce. What began as a conference-within-a-conference at AIHce 2013 in Montreal has morphed into a standalone event. This year, the Stewardship Conference will be co-located with AIHce 2015 in Salt Lake City and will feature four days of workshops and technical sessions. You’ll find the detailed schedule online. A FORUM FOR PRODUCT STEWARDS The Product Stewardship Society is a true professional association. It gives its members a forum for discussing important issues without wearing their corporate, government, or NGO banners, and for facilitating collaborations that will advance the art and science of stewardship.
Regulatory activity related to stewardship is increasing around the world, and the public has taken a significant interest in stewardship and sustainability issues. Stewardship 2015 in Salt Lake City is a perfect opportunity for you to learn more about this burgeoning field. Visit the Stewardship 2015 Web page for more information.
This year, the Stewardship Conference will be co-located with AIHce 2015 in Salt Lake City and will feature four days of workshops and technical sessions.

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